Math a win-win in food stores

July 11, 2011

Supermarkets are rich in teaching opportunities that could make kids smarter shoppers as the years go on.

Supermarkets that obscure prices make comparisons tough and nearly impossible for shoppers to calculate quickly. Different package types, product counts, item sizes, usage rates and temporary price reductions add complexity. 

The silver lining in all of this: Parents that shop with their kids can give them math lessons at the same time. Think of supermarket shelves like blackboards with real life math problems that need to be solved quickly. Complete one, and onto the next.

More than simple counting games for young children, these problems could cross into SAT territory with problems that could trip up well-educated shoppers. What better time than the imminent Back-to-School season for inventive retailers to take the initiative with campaigns such as “Help mom find the best deal.” Retailers could promote math with in-store messaging, booklets and learning games on their websites; they could build buzz further on social media, and they could donate to schools attended by children that sign up and whose households purchase enough merchandise.

Neither parents nor stores want trips lengthened and aisles clogged by impromptu math lessons.Yet supermarkets rich in teaching opportunities could apply them to demonstrate a pro-family, pro-consumer position that also implies “we want you to spend your money wisely, hopefully with us, and we’ll make it easy and open for you to do so.”